When my firstborn interviewed for his first real job (read that: related to his career) after finishing grad school at the University of Michigan fifteen+ years ago, I drove out to Boston with him just for fun (and moral support for both of us, since it’s very hard to have your firstborn move so far from home). We couldn’t check into a hotel room at 9:00 am, so I sat in the office lobby while he interviewed. The CEO of this new computer company was a Russian scientist who apparently noticed my in the waiting room, because after he finished interviewing Aaron, he came out and said he wanted to interview me too! I was a bit dumbfounded, because that’s never the way it’s done in America (so far as I know). He asked, “And, what do you want for your son?” Thankfully, I knew the answer to that question! “I want him to be good, and I want him to do good.” Anatoli smiled. “If he works for me, he’ll be good, and he’ll do good!” He poured me a glass of cold, sweet tea…and we talked for nearly an hour. He had come to the U.S. after the cold war ended in 1990. He told me that when he was a young man, he’d spent an entire year’s savings (I believe he meant beyond what it cost him to live) to buy a Bible on the black market, but he couldn’t understand it. I explained the gospel to him, and he smiled quietly but shook his head. “You can’t imagine how hard it is to believe after you’ve been taught all your life that there is no god. You are the luckiest woman in the world if you can believe, because I have nowhere to go with my sin. If there’s no god, then there’s no forgiveness. I just have to do the best I can and try never to fail, but I can’t be perfect all the time. I wish I could believe.”
Heartbreaking words, and I didn’t know what to say to him. It wasn’t until yesterday morning, listening to Jim Samra’s message here at Calvary Church in Grand Rapids, MI, that I heard an answer that made perfect sense to me. The message was from Romans 2:1-11, but let me just key in on this phrase, “God ‘will repay each person according to what they have done’. To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life…” (NIV). Our pastor brought out this thrilling hope: Those who persist in doing good are already demonstrating faith. There is hope for all who believe enough to wish they could believe, because they are demonstrating by their life a desire for what is good. They are seeking for glory, honor, and immortality. That isn’t enough to save anyone, because salvation is a gift and immortality is found only in Jesus Christ: “God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son” (1 John 5:11). However, if anyone wishes to believe and persists in good works, then according to Romans, God will give (as a gift) his Son, Jesus Christ, who is eternal life.
Do you believe? Would you like to believe? Pray with the anguished father in Mark 9:24, “Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.” God is able. Are you willing?
“You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. 2 Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. 3 So when you, a mere human being, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? 4 Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance? 5 But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed. 6 God ‘will repay each person according to what they have done.’ 7 To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. 8 But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. 9 There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; 10 but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. 11 For God does not show favoritism.” (Romans 2:1-11, NIV)